Post-Hurricane Irma - how are Caribbean holiday destinations affected?
While some islands remain intact and open for visitors, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation has issued an update on the status of northern Caribbean countries impacted by the passage of huge category five hurricane Irma that ripped across the region last week.
In the wake of huge Hurricane Irma that struck the northern Caribbean last week, the region is currently assessing the damage. The Caribbean Tourism Organisation has been collating information from the islands impacted by the storm and has issued an update on the situation regarding hotels, resorts and tourism infrastructure.
Though it has been widely reported that northern Leeward islands such as Barbuda and St Barts have been decimated by the storm, with Barbuda described by Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister Gaston Browne as "virtually uninhabitable", some islands such as Antigua came through the storm relatively unscathed and others in the south of the region, such as Barbados and St Lucia, were left untouched.
The region is heavily reliant on tourism, and with the busy winter season due to begin in late October, there are already fears that the hurricane could have severe consequences for the local tourism economy. Travellers to the Caribbean are being urged not to cancel travel plans until they have checked with tour providers on the status of their destination.
Areas to the south of the Leeward Islands, the Bahamas and Cuba continue to welcome holidaymakers and are functioning as normal. This includes the Windward islands, such as St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados, plus Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the Lesser Antilles islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
For other destinations, here’s a round-up of the most up-to-date information from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation:
Antigua and Barbuda
The eye of Hurricane Irma passed to the north of Antigua, leaving the island relatively unscathed with downed power lines and mostly cosmetic damage that can be quickly remedied. Electricity was restored to capital St. John’s and most parts of the island shortly after the storm and V.C. Bird International Airport reopened for all flights on 7 September.
On the other hand, Barbuda and its 1,800 or so residents were severely impacted by the hurricane, which passed directly over the small island, resulting in one fatality. More than 90 per cent of homes were damaged and Barbuda’s small clutch of hotels and resorts were also badly damaged. Plans to restore the island are currently underway alongside a relief operation and fundraising efforts. See details below if you would like to donate.
Updates from individual hotels and resorts on Antigua are as follows:
Curtain Bluff emerged from the tail of the storm without any damage. All staff and their families are unharmed. The clean-up of the property has begun and communications have been restored. Cocos Hotel and Keyonna Beach Resort have reported no long-term damage, while Galley Bay said it will issue operational updates in the coming days. Hermitage Bay is a little waterlogged from the sea swells that came up, but other than that all is well.
Jumby Bay Island has reported no structural damage to the resort or homes. There will be a landscaping clean-up but the reopening after annual maintenance remains on schedule for 9 October 2017.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency is reporting that Anguilla’s airport runway and most roads leading to the airport have been cleared of debris. The agency is also reporting that 90 per cent of government buildings and business structures were damaged, as well as 90 per cent of the electricity infrastructure. There is also significant damage to the main water supply.
The British government has deployed three humanitarian aid experts from the UK to assist with needs assessments and coordination. The British naval ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay has arrived in the territory, with 40 Royal Marines and Army engineers on board to coordinate a humanitarian response.
Quintessence Hotel, which had been expected to reopen on 1 November, suffered damage during Hurricane Irma, so those plans have been delayed.
The Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau sustained no damage from Hurricane Irma and all airports have resumed operations. Cruise ships will begin docking again from next Wednesday. Officials said the Bahamas’ tourism product in Nassau, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and the Out Islands was unharmed, with damage limited to cosmetic damage to tourism facilities in places like Crooked Island, Inagua and Mayaguana and major structural damage on Ragged Island. Assessment of Acklins Island is ongoing.
British Virgin Islands
The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has been devastating, according to a statement from BVI’s director of tourism Sharon Flax-Brutus. With cell phone towers down and power outages, communication to, from and within, the territory has been difficult, impacting the ability to fully assess the damage. The destination has lost entire structures and many homes are without roofs, or have been demolished.
The BVI government has begun to coordinate humanitarian relief efforts and an initial clean-up operation. The UK government has sent Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean to offer relief and support.
Updates from individual hotels in the British Virgin Islands are as follows:
Bitter End Yacht Club was on its annual closure during the storm. The crew on the ground is safe. All guests and staff at Peter Island Resort & Spa and Scrub Island were reported safe. Rosewood Little Dix Bay is currently closed for renovation and therefore no guests were present at the resort and the management team was relocated prior to the storm.
Information is still being gathered regarding the situation in Cuba, but there are reports of some damage to infrastructure on the north coast of the country including the coral cays of the Jardines del Rey and popular tourist resort Varadero.
Punta Cana International Airport has resumed normal operations following the passage of Hurricane Irma after the storm passed off Punta Cana’s coast. The area’s hotel sector is reporting no major damage. Damaged homes and flooded streets in Cabarete and Sosua have been reported.
Reports indicate that damage and flooding is minor in Haiti.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) is reporting that major tourism infrastructure and attractions are operational and the island can continue to welcome new visitors. The majority of hotels throughout mainland Puerto Rico are ready to welcome new guests. Attractions such as parks and beaches are currently being assessed to ensure a quick clean up.
Flights to and from Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport have resumed. Puerto Rico’s port is operational and open to cruise ships.
Updates from individual hotels in Puerto Rico are as follows:
Condado Plaza Hilton sustained minor damage. El Conquistador Resort is operational and working on getting all amenities back to normal. The clean-up of the areas in under way and some minor damage is being attended to. Las Casitas Village will reopen shortly. El San Juan Hotel has received minimal damage and all efforts are being made to re-open as soon as possible. Hotel El Convento suffered no significant damage and operations are resuming, including Patio del Níspero & Alegria Patio Bar. It’s also business as usual at InterContinental San Juan, Rincon Beach and San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts & Nevis sustained minimal damage overall and both St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport and Nevis’ Vance W. Amory International Airport have reopened.
Hotels in St. Kitts reported no structural damage while Nevis’ hotel updates include:
Four Seasons Resort Nevis is reporting the resort is in fine shape and all areas are generally dry. Hermitage Inn reported general debris and no structural damage. The Great House and Cottages at Nisbett Plantation Beach Club are in excellent condition. However, there was damage to the Sea Breeze Beach Bar, the decking and the beach.
It has been reported that St. Barth’s was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma, which destroyed government buildings and badly damaged private homes and resorts including the Eden Rock Hotel. There is flooding throughout the destination. The French government has sent people and supplies to the country to assist with recovery efforts. The island airport has just reopened for commercial flights and there is a strong will to repair the damage to roads and property ahead of the winter holiday season.
St. Maarten (Dutch) / St. Martin (French)
The recovery effort continues. The Princess Juliana International Airport has been receiving flights that are bringing in relief supplies.
Updates from St. Maarten / St. Martin hotels are as follows:
The Beach Plaza hotel was badly damaged. Hotel Mercure and Oyster Bay Beach Resort also suffered significant damage. Riu Palace St. Martin was severely affected. All guests and staff at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino & Spa, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino cam through the storm unharmed but damage to the resort is severe. All further reservations from now through the end of 2017 have been cancelled. The Westin Dawn Beach also suffered significant damage. Both the French and Dutch government have sent aid and supplies to the country.
The island of St Eustatius suffered minimal damage from Hurricane Irma with a few roofs lost and some felled trees. The airport and seaport are both operational, and telephone, internet, electricity are water are also back up.
Turks and Caicos Islands
The islands’ director of tourism Ramon Andrews reported that Turks and Caicos experienced flooding and some structural damage as a result of Hurricane Irma. Roofs have been blown off and trees blown over, but there was no loss of life and all visitors are safe. Many roads were flooded and power lines and transformers need repairing, according to the emergency management agency. Providenciales International Airport (PLS) reopened for scheduled flights on 11 September.
Updates from individual properties in the Turks & Caicos Islands are as follows:
Alexandra Resort, Blue Haven Resort and Beach House sustained some wind and water damage due to the storm, and will be closed for arrivals until 8 October. Many hotels and resorts were on annual closure before the storm hit and have decided to remain closed while damage is assessed and repaired.
United States Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas)
The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has advised that a full assessment on the impact of Hurricane Irma is under way and while St. Croix is getting back to business, visitors are being encouraged not to visit St. Thomas and St. John.
According to commissioner of tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty, “The island of St. Croix did not receive the full brunt of the storm, and St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport received its first commercial flight” on 8 September.
She reported that communication is still limited, there is significant damage to infrastructure in St. Thomas and St. John. To ensure everyone's safety, the postponement of all scheduled visits to St. Thomas and St. John is being recommended. The storm has resulted in four casualties on the island of St. Thomas.
The following updates have been shared by individual properties in the U.S. Virgin Islands:
The Buccaneer in St. Croix is open for business. Facilities are in good shape. Caneel Bay and Westin St. John Resort Villas in St. John have reported everyone is safe but the surrounding areas experienced some damage and overall impact is being assessed. Bluebeard’s Castle Resort in St. Thomas has sustained major damage. Point Pleasant Resort and Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St Thomas experienced power loss and some damage. Secret Harbour Beach Resort said there was no major structural damage to its buildings. The Windward Passage resort in St. Thomas will be closed for six months.
The CTO has set up a Hurricane Relief Fund, which helps CTO member countries affected by Hurricane Irma. You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto
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